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5 Not-So-Hot Cars for February

Tickers in this article: F GM TM

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- No question the auto industry is still rolling alone, economic uncertainty be damned. But as always, in February a few cars lagged behind the trends.

February sales results produced a multitude of positive metrics, including this one from the GM (GM) sales call: February was the fourth consecutive month with a seasonally annualized adjusted sales rate above 15 million units.

"We have not seen an industry this strong since 2008,' said Kurt McNeil, GM's vice president of U.S. sales operations. "The difference between then and now is that the escalator is heading up, not down." McNeil said sales are on track to meet GM's full-year forecast of 15 million to 15.5 million units.

As for the losers, two of them compete in what is generally viewed as the industry's toughest segment. There, the Chevrolet Malibu showed a decline of 26%. The Toyota (TM) Camry, typically the best-selling U.S. car, showed a decline of 6%. The Hyundai Sonata showed a decline of 8%.

Maybe it's just because the Ford (F) Fusion did so well in the segment, with sales up 28% to 27,875 units. "Mid-sized sedans are the most competitive segment," said analyst Jesse Toprak. "They're all similar is design and value, so product is not the key differentiator." Rather, he said, it is more important to be the newest vehicle and to offer high incentives, as Ford did in February.

Our list of five not-so-hot cars in February includes two from the mid-sized segment as well as other cars affected by negative factors including rising fuel prices, lack of adequate distribution and supply constraints.

Chevrolet Malibu

February sales of the Chevrolet Malibu fell 26% to 14,817. Year-to-date sales are down 12% to 30,640.

During the GM sales call, analysts and reporters questioned the declining sales not only of Malibu but also of two other leading Chevrolet cars. Cruze fell 12% to 17,947 units while Sonic fell 24% to 6,020 units.

"Chevrolet is struggling with its brand-new Malibu in the intensely competitive mid-size sedan segment, where virtually everything is new," said analyst Michelle Krebs, in a prepared statement. "Cruze, reaching the end of its current life, is also suffering as Chevy substantially discounts the Malibu into Cruze pricing territory."

Don Johnson, vice president of Chevrolet sales and service, acknowledged: "Malibu has had a couple of bumps ... It's been a dogfight with a lot of good products" in the segment. But he said February retail sales rose 17% over January and inventory has declined from a 160-day supply in January to 120 days now.

He said Malibu retail sales rose 17% over January's level and inventory has declined from a 160-day supply in January to a 120-day supply today. Additionally, he said, year-over-year comparisons are difficult for the Chevrolet automobiles.